A bitter cold snap in Russia has claimed 123 lives in the past 10 days, an official said on Tuesday, with the early freeze testing authorities in a country used to notoriously tough winters.
Temperatures have plunged as low as minus-30°C in the Moscow region and minus-60°C in Eastern Siberia.
“Since the start of the cold, 123 people have died of exposure and frostbite,” a medical source was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.
Another 833 people had to be hospitalized to be treated for hypothermia and frostbite, including 123 over the past 24 hours, of whom 14 were children, the source added.
Since the start of the cold snap, 1,745 people were affected and more than 800 had to be hospitalized, the source said.
State television reports on Tuesday focused on the village of Khovu Aksy in Tyva, one of Russia’s poorest regions, in southern Siberia. A state of emergency was declared there after the local power station failed with temperatures of minus-40°C, hitting 4,000 residents.
With repair work on the power station hampered by the sub-zero conditions, some local people were given shelter at schools that had emergency heating systems.
“There is nothing, not even water. We have to melt snow and the temperature at home is below zero,” one bundled-up resident told Vesti-24 channel.
Some residents, including children, have been lifted by helicopter to the regional center of Kyzyl, the report said.
Temperatures have been about 12oC lower than seasonal norms in Russia, where the coldest weather usually does not arrive until next month or February.
In the Moscow region, Monday saw an all-time record for electricity consumption, Russia’s power operator said on Tuesday, blaming the unusually cold temperatures.
Russia’s weather service is predicting a drastic temperature rise in the European parts of Russia later this week, with 0°C expected in Moscow.
However, the emergency ministry warned that the warming would be accompanied by strong winds and freezing rain, that would likely damage communications and slow down traffic.